California Car Wash Takes its Employees to the Cleaners


Los Angeles, CA When writing about California labor law it's easy, and in fact tempting to address more sensational and top-of-mind occupations such as the computer industry??"and there is little doubt there are significant California state labor law issues there. However, there are other sectors affected by California state labor law. And when car wash workers making minimum wage are wronged, there should be as equal a hue and cry as that for computer geeks making $70,000 a year.

Car Wash WorkerSuch is the case in Los Angeles, after 60 workers at a Redondo Beach car wash will receive almost a half million dollars in back wages after they were stiffed by their employer. The California Labor Commissioner brought a lawsuit against the employer on the workers' behalf, and a settlement was reached November 19th.

Sometimes, the little guy gets his due. And in this case, the little guy wouldn't have had much to start with, before the employer began to take away even that.

At the center of the investigation was the Bruno Scherrer Corporation, doing business as the Hollywood Riviera. After starting an investigation in October of 2006, the Office of the California Labor Commissioner found that the Hollywood Riviera would pay their employees minimum scale for as little as 3, or 4 hours of work??"only to require them to finish out their day with pay from tips only. For some employees, this would amount to half their day working for tips.

It was also alleged that beyond shorting their employees on their earnings, the employer failed to properly record, and keep accurate records of an employee's work hours.

"Employees must be fully paid for all hours that they work," said Labor Commissioner Angela Bradstreet. "Businesses are required by law to keep accurate records showing when the employee begins and ends each work shift and properly compensate for those hours.

"Clearly this case reveals a deplorable situation where employees were being taken advantage of by not being paid their proper wage," said Bradstreet. "This case is an excellent example of why we register carwash companies in California."

The California Labor Commissioner filed a lawsuit against Hollywood Riviera in Los Angeles Superior Court, on behalf of the 60 workers, in September of last year. They stand to collect $450,000 in unpaid wages, as a result of the successful litigation.

The California Labor Commissioner, and other commentators familiar with the case, agree that the case represented a blatant violation of minimum wage laws??"and specifically AB 1688, a Bill passed by the California State Legislature in 2003 that granted a registration system for all car wash and polishing enterprises.

California Labor Code sections 2050-2067 addresses the car was and polishing industry, and is known collectively as the Car Wash Worker Law. Its very existence provides protection for employees of the car wash and polishing industry against the actions of unscrupulous employers.

And there are some nasty violations out there that go beyond illegal cash pay. Failure to provide adequate worker's compensation is another oft-cited violation, and officials often see child labor violations at car wash and polishing enterprises. Sure, the kid wants some pocket coin. He'll do the work for tips, or for a couple of bucks in his jeans. He's glad for the cash, and hey who's gonna know? Better than the kid being on the street. We'll put him to work…

Sorry, but that doesn't cut it. There are laws and statutes, and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement adjudicates various violations in the area of wage claims, discrimination and various other complaints??"and more importantly enforces State labor law and Industrial Welfare Commission wage orders.

In short, there are various checks and balances in play to ensure that employers refrain from flaunting California labor laws, and taking their already low-paid workers completely to the cleaners. California state labor laws ensure that you can't do what Hollywood Riviera was accused of doing, an accusation that appears as fact after the employer, following the California State labor law investigation, agreed to cough up $450,000 to be split amongst its 60 workers. A nice Christmas present indeed.

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